Watch the Roles and Missions

Feb. 1, 1983

Among the many items AFA members should be alert for as the year continues to unfold, two warrant special note. They are, first, evidence of Air Force cooperation with other US services and allied forces; and, second, cases where the services are at loggerheads.

AFA has already noted—and applauded—the Air Force-Navy Memorandum of Agreement that is already bearing fruit in expanded cooperation. As the USAF-USN steering group probes more deeply into the possibilities, expect to see more cases of Air Force and Navy forces planning, working, training, and operating together.

Regarding allied forces, particularly noteworthy is the closer cooperation under way at Allied Air Forces. Expanded when Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Gabriel was CINC USAFE, these activities make better use of limited resources in maintaining the balance in a critical area. Watch for more and similar activities there and in other parts of the world. Case in point: the combined use by USAF and Republic of Korea air forces of the instrumented maneuvering range off the peninsula’s west coast.

Cases like those are on the plus side of the balance sheet. On the minus side are instances where the Air Force and sister services get into squabbles over roles and missions—and the funds that they justify.

Consider point air defense. The Army has the mission, but has done very little over the past two decades to execute it in a way that would strike fear into penetrating enemy aircraft. Consequently, in the UK the Air Force has made up the deficiency by buying British-made Rapier surface-to-air missiles and having the Royal Air Force Regiment man them. As the Air Force seeks air defense for its bases on the continent of Europe, it runs against the Army contention that it has the role. The fact that it’s not executing the mission gets lost in the verbiage.

On the other hand, the Army has relied on the Air Force for interdiction of enemy second-echelon formations, since it is assigned the role. That’s fine in daylight and clear weather. But, as Gen. W.L. Creech, TAC Commander, points out in this issue, for attacking at night and in weather the tactical air forces are about where the Army Air Forces were in December 1944: “That means our capability is near zero.” So the Army is seeking ways to develop corps support weapon systems to attack the rear areas of the enemy facing them—interdiction, if you will. Here’s an area for contention and competition for resources.

What can the Air Force do? Use such standoff weapons as cruise missiles, accelerate development of night and under-weather attack aircraft, and continue development of affordable and maintainable all-weather systems.

As competition for already-scarce funds intensifies, we will not have the luxury of duplicate systems. So for the rest of the year expect tussles among the services, and head-knocking where justified.