The Winning Combination of Air and Space

Jan. 1, 2002

Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff

US air and space power works, big time. That was a bottom-line message from Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff, at AFA’s National Symposium, held Nov. 16 in Los Angeles.

In the first 40 days of Operation Enduring Freedom, said Jumper, the Air Force deployed 14,000 airmen, with thousands more carrying out support missions at home. Included among those are USAF space forces, both forward deployed and in reachback positions. USAF aircraft flew 3,000 missions, many from the most difficult base conditions imaginable.

The Taliban hold on Afghanistan was shattered within weeks. The Air Force team showed it is even tougher and more capable today than it was during Operation Allied Force in the Balkans in 1999.

“We should all be very proud of what our warriors have accomplished,” said Jumper.

Jumper also acknowledged the value of special operations spotters on the ground. “Having people on the ground to precisely locate targets has made us orders of magnitude better,” he said.

The Afghan operation was a triumph of both aviation and space systems and operations. In Jumper’s view, when air and space combine, “we can find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess anything of significance on the face of the Earth.”

The job of service air and space warriors is to combine their skills and talents to provide top commanders the means to win decisively in conflicts of both today and tomorrow.

“This is … the essence of transformation, to leverage the nation’s technology to create the maximum asymmetrical advantage,” said Jumper.

Right now, such crosscutting capability exists in bits and pieces. It is up to the Air Force to pull it together–air and space assets, manned and unmanned capabilities.

Those at the tip of the spear do not care where their information comes from, said the Chief of Staff. To the special operator who is trying to help guide a bomb to a target, it is of no consequence that the target’s coordinates came from a satellite, E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, or Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. He simply wants the target destroyed-and fast.

“And he is most grateful for those of us in uniform who can think across boundaries, who can think across capabilities, who can, in a single word, integrate,” said Jumper.

Integration should start with a clear concept of operations. In other words, those who equip the force should think about how they are going to fight, before they decide what to buy to fight with.

That is not the way things work now. The Air Force continues to be a service of “heavy equipment operators,” said Jumper, consciously quoting Gen. Michael J. Dugan, a predecessor USAF Chief of Staff. Everyone is wedded to a particular platform or program. To an F-15 pilot, every problem looks like a MiG-21. To a bomber specialist, there is little that cannot be solved with Mk 82s.

Captains and lieutenants are supposed to be zealots about their specialty, said Jumper. Their lives can depend on it. But true integration will require different ways of thinking at higher pay grades.

Right now, there is precisely “zero” money allocated against an Air Force budget program element that is labeled “integration.”

“Integration is left as a by-product of the program, of the platform. … What we are trying to do is create an intellectual construct that will take us away from that,” said Jumper.

That construct might well be task forces that attack broad problems and come up with specific solutions. The Global Strike Task Force, for instance, is a means for trying to figure out ways around the access crunch that could constrain USAF’s ability to position itself far forward in a crisis.

To be effective, such integration has to take place on a number of levels, said Jumper. One of them is the horizontal integration of manned, unmanned, and space elements-something Jumper refers to as the “sum of the wisdom.”

The point is to provide the integration that enables a warfighter to put a cursor over a target. That would involve satellites, Joint STARS, and even ground radars working together to track one target up mountains, down valleys, through camouflage, and in the dark.

“Create that network in the sky that will pass the information around,” said Jumper.

Tankers, for instance, are supposed to be close enough to the battlespace to provide convenient refueling, while remaining out of harm’s way. Perhaps they should carry a pallet of electronics that enables them to translate one sort of Link message format to another, said Jumper. Hang electronic scanning arrays on their sides, and the tankers could suck up signals and beam them back somewhere else for processing.

Or use Global Hawk, orbiting at 70,000 feet, as a surrogate low Earth orbiting satellite.

Then infuse the whole system with the urgency and intelligence of a tactical targeting system. It should be able to take a blip from a satellite, sort through intelligence databases, task an airborne Joint STARS crew to take a closer look, reposition Predators, decide the blip is a Scud missile, get an operational “go,” and then send the data into the cockpit of a patrolling B-1B bomber.

“Why don’t we do that?” asked Jumper. “We could be doing that today.”

It comes back to thinking about how the Air Force is going to fight before deciding what to buy. Currently, the acquisition process is overly risk averse. Program managers are afraid of making the smallest mistake. Operators are not involved.

That is going to change, said Jumper. Operators are going to have a say in acquisition. Requirements people from the different major commands will work together. Acquisition staffers are going to work in requirements offices.

“We are going to accept a failure or two, and we are going to create a system that allows us to trade requirements on the fly to take advantage of new technologies,” said the Air Force Chief.

This fall Jumper attended the final game of the World Series. He said he was in uniform and a young woman who had lost her husband in the collapse of the World Trade Center came over to him.

With tears in her eyes, she asked Jumper to “get that guy” who had caused America so much pain and suffering.

“We have the power in this room to ‘get that guy’ and all the other guys that are out there, if we have the courage to think across stovepipes, if we have the tenacity to think about the effect rather than the medium,” the Chief told AFA.

Air Force Secretary James G. Roche

It’s now more urgent than ever that the Department of Defense and the Air Force take advantage of the technology of the new century, said Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche.

Most current Air Force systems were designed and built to meet the threat of the Cold War, and that era now seems a long, long time ago.

On the space side, that means service leaders will have to drive plans, doctrine, and systems to fully incorporate the promise of space power. Air- and space-integrated 24-hour intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance is only one of the future capabilities the Air Force needs.

“Of particular interest to General Jumper and me is how will we respond with the lethality and precision to pop-up targets in seconds or minutes, not hours, not days,” said Roche.

Service leaders also need to accelerate efforts to develop a fulfilling career in Air Force space as part of an overall attempt to attract and retain the best people in today’s technology-driven world. Such efforts should include development of career progression, educational opportunities, and other tangible measures of affirmation.

Budgets will not be unlimited. The Air Force needs to be efficient and cost-effective in all that it does, said its civilian leader, in part by looking at best business practices in acquisition programs and operations. The lesson of the evolved expendable launch vehicle, where the Air Force is partnering with two prime contractors that are pursuing alternative approaches, might be worth following.

Finally, the Air Force needs to provide more incentives to industry for innovation, said Roche.

In the end, the US Air Force needs to be master of air and space. It needs to be a seamless force for the 21st century. It needs to be able to find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess any target anywhere in the world, within seconds. It has to recognize that “strike” means creating the right effect at the right place at the right time, regardless of adversary efforts to deny access.

“We also recognize that space capabilities play an important role in every strike scenario,” said Roche. “It has to be seamless.”

Gen. Lester L. Lyles, Air Force Materiel Command

Air Force Materiel Command faces a metamorphosis, said Gen. Lester L. Lyles, AFMC commander.

For one thing, AFMC transferred Space and Missile Systems Center, an acquisition and development organization, to Air Force Space Command, an operational unit.

For another, AFMC has made its own horizontal integration moves. Early in 2001, Lyles and the then-assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, Lawrence J. Delaney, established “enterprise commanders” to consider the needs and problems of an area of warfighting as opposed to those of a single program.

Enterprise commanders now exist for space, aeronautics, command and control, and air armament. These commanders realized quickly, said Lyles, that they needed “another construct and we call it an enterprise integration council.”

The council enables “them to get together and look at effects or capabilities for the warfighter, not just in the aeronautical enterprise or the command-and-control enterprise or the space enterprise, but how you bring them all together to solve problems,” said Lyles.

The move is beginning to pay off. This fall AFMC presented Air Combat Command with an integrated roadmap on how to do time-critical targeting. The plan combined the attack part of this problem with the command-and-control challenges. It discussed trade-offs between various programs and capabilities. It offered gap-filler items in case particular programs failed in development.

“That one example to me was very heartening,” said Lyles. “It shows that we can do it.”

To work technological challenges to horizontal integration, AFMC has reinvigorated developmental planning-the art of looking at technology and user requirements and thinking continuously about how to provide needed effects.

But there is at least one large aspect of horizontal integration that has yet to be addressed, said Lyles–the role of industry. Defense firms are organized in terms of platforms. How will they deal with an Air Force acquisition community more oriented toward thinking about the creation of effects and capabilities

“We need your help to figure out how we bring industry into this picture and also give us the ability to look at things horizontally,” said Lyles. “That might be even the most daunting challenge.”

Lt. Gen. Roger G. DeKok, Air Force Space Command

The Air Force needs a transformation in the way it thinks about air and space forces, said Lt. Gen. Roger G. DeKok, vice commander, Air Force Space Command.

DeKok talked in particular about the evolution of the US space effort and how that might apply to Jumper’s vision of the Air Force future.

US military space capabilities were born as the result of a traumatic national shock, DeKok pointed out. While nothing like the horrendous events of Sept. 11, the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957 was nonetheless a scary wake-up call. The US found that someone else had achieved a scientific breakthrough first–and it didn’t like it.

“The threat of nuclear attack and the fear of losing the space race was the genesis of the space dominance that we enjoy today,” said DeKok.

As NASA proceeded with manned spaceflight, the Air Force worked the military side of the equation. In the 1960s the Corona program created the first satellite with the ability to look deep into enemy territory. In 1963, the first early warning satellite, MIDAS, demonstrated the ability to detect ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world.

The defense satellite communications programs of the mid- to late-1960s enabled the US to channel strategic communications from fixed bases through space.

Exploitation of the technology was never the sure thing that it seems in hindsight. Finding enough money was always a problem.

Still, DeKok said, “those early achievements gave way to the kinds of capabilities that we enjoy in space today.”

Those space capabilities are split into four categories, according to the AFSPC vice commander. Force enhancement provides capabilities to warfighters. Space support gets systems into space in the first place and supports them once they are there. Force application today is represented by the ICBMs, which transit space. Finally there is space control, to assure continued US access to space systems while denying a similar advantage to adversaries.

Thus military space is not about systems, missions, or organizations. “It is about the capabilities that we provide in the battlespace,” said DeKok.

In terms of recent development, Desert Storm did for space power what World War I did for airpower. While the fight against Iraq was far from a space war, it did teach very valuable lessons in the ability of space systems to make a difference.

Since then AFSPC has worked hard to better integrate space capabilities into the operational and tactical level of the fight. In Operation Enduring Freedom, B-2s flying from Missouri receive weather and intelligence communications en route from space-based platforms. They drop bombs guided by global positioning system satellites, a system whose ground control is based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Now we are concentrating less on platforms and more on effects,” said DeKok.

The effects AFSPC is now focusing on include optimizing accuracy of shooters, maintenance of situational awareness of the battlespace, vigilance against such ground threats as theater ballistic missiles, and minimization of in-theater footprints.

To realize the full potential for space systems of tomorrow, the bureaucratic fences that divide requirements shops from developers and operators will have to be ripped up, said DeKok.

With the realignment of Space and Missile Systems Center into Air Force Space Command, some of that has already been done.

“In a way, this is going back to the future. This is going back to the time that existed in the ’60s and ’70s, before the establishment of Air Force Space Command,” said DeKok.

Still, space warriors who understand both acquisition and operations are rare indeed. The service needs to develop more who understand the importance of Jumper’s horizontal integration imperative.

“So we’ve got some big evolutionary steps in front of us. They involve major cultural shifts and they involve changes in the way we train and educate our people at all levels,” said DeKok.

Lt. Gen. Brian A. Arnold, Space and Missile Systems Center

On the space side, the defense business today is already facing a number of basic challenges, said Lt. Gen. Brian A. Arnold, commander, Space and Missile Systems Center.

The first is excess capacity, particularly in the commercial launch market. Not long ago, predictions held that US firms would soon be launching a payload into orbit every other week. That hasn’t occurred.

“This lack of a solid market, I believe, will likely lead to consolidation,” said Arnold.

The second is foreign competition, involving everything from Ariane in space launch to Alcatel in communications. A related development is foreign ownership of US space companies.

Arnold asked, Will there be more foreign linkages and partnerships for the future

Third is the impact of acquisition reform and partnering, which aims at pushing the contractor to absorb more risks and costs.

Last is the challenge of attracting human capital. Both the Defense Department and civilian firms need to begin to attract younger engineers by showing the excitement of working on the leading edge of technologies. In the 1960s, the challenge of landing a man on the moon caused a generation of engineers to flock to space work.

“We need to rekindle that same level of excitement in this country in space engineers,” said Arnold.

Jumper Calls Afghan Operation “Best Example of Joint Warfare”

In the early days of the war, much commentary focused on the relative merits of air and space power vs. land or sea forces. That is not an argument the Air Force needs to be drawn into, according to its Chief.

He pointed out that the early air campaign was “the very best example of joint warfare going on today.” Navy fighter-bombers, flying off Navy carriers, were refueled from Air Force tankers, many of them flown by Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command crews.

Space and surveillance assets from all the services worked together to produce target information for all US aircraft.

Special Forces teams on the ground helped spot targets and avoid collateral damage. Some of those ground troops were airmen–Air Force special tactics teams.

“We should rejoice in each other’s specialties among our services and not be drawn into arguments about who could have won the war all by themselves,” said Jumper.

Taking a New Approach to Air, Space, and Aerospace

These remarks by the new Chief of Staff, Gen. John P. Jumper, refer to the report of the 2000-01 Space Commission, which was chaired for most of its existence by Donald Rumsfeld, then a private citizen but now the Secretary of Defense. The panel’s final report called for major changes in the organization of US military space activities and agencies.

“I carefully read the Space Commission report. I didn’t see one time in that report, in its many pages, where the term ‘aerospace’ was used. The reason is that it fails to give the proper respect to the culture and to the physical differences that abide between the physical environment of air and the physical environment of space.

“We need to make sure we respect those differences. So I will talk about air and space. I will respect the fact that space is its own culture, that space has its own principles that have to be respected.

“And when we talk about operating in different ways in air and space, we have to also pay great attention to combining the effects of air and space because in the combining of those effects, we will leverage this technology we have that creates the asymmetrical advantage for our commanders.”

Peter Grier, a Washington, D.C., editor for the Christian Science Monitor, is a longtime defense correspondent and regular contributor to Air Force Magazine. His most recent article, “In the Shadow of MAD,” appeared in the November 2001 issue.