The pivotal role now being played by the Air Force in the nation’s confrontation with Iraq, the global war on terror, and defense of the homeland dominated presentations at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium held Feb. 13–14 in Orlando, Fla.
Senior Air Force leaders and other top military officials spoke about the demands of the current war and how the Air Force is preparing to meet its future challenges. These include—but are not limited to—an aging fleet of aircraft, inadequate numbers of specialized weapon systems, and heavy demands on the small active force as well as the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command.
James G. Roche, Secretary of the Air Force
The Air Force has taken on heavy new responsibilities since Sept. 11, 2001, with no sign of a letup, according to Air Force Secretary James G. Roche.
The increased tempo begins at home. Roche noted the Air Force has flown more than 25,000 fighter, tanker, airlift, and airborne early warning sorties for Operation Noble Eagle since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
ANG and AFRC units flew more than 75 percent of these missions to defend US airspace. The Guard and Reserve “have been spectacular,” Roche noted.
Overall, some 200 aircraft at more than 20 bases have been dedicated to providing continuous combat air patrols or on-call support to sensitive and high-risk areas across the United States at a direct cost of more than $250 million a year, Roche said.
That mission—and the cost of sustaining it—is now a fact of life.
“ Those who think that we can absorb these expenses into our regular budget [need to be] somehow enlightened,” said Roche. The simple truth is “we cannot.”
Roche went on to say that the service can cover some operational expenses by using funds from other accounts, but, “at some point, you just have to go forward and say, ‘Well, what part of our Air Force would we like to do without,’ because we are going to have to shut things down” if the full range of USAF missions is not properly funded.
Roche said he is confident Congress will provide supplemental funding to cover any war costs, but the challenge is getting lawmakers to understand that certain actions are now permanent features. “What we call Operation Noble Eagle isn’t an operation, ladies and gentlemen,” said the Secretary. “It is our future. It is never going to go away.”
The war on terror has also been demanding overseas. In Afghanistan, USAF “flew more than 40,000 sorties in 2002,” Roche said. That was 70 percent of all coalition sorties. Moreover, the service carried out some 8,000 refueling missions so aircraft could reach that distant, landlocked nation.
In mid–February, Iraq continued to loom as a threat. A force of 8,000 airmen made Operations Northern and Southern Watch successful for yet another year “but at a direct cost of about a billion dollars a year,” Roche noted.
Modernization accounts, already pinched, are another concern. Roche said the United States is not making sufficient use of the nation’s prosperity, intellectual capital, and industrial base “to deliver the capability we need to sustain our dominance.” Technology is forever advancing, he noted. Without continued investment in advanced military capabilities, the Air Force risks falling behind.
“ The United States does not have a patent on progress,” Roche said.
The advantage in warfighting goes to the nation or group that uses technology to the greatest advantage, he explained.
“ Let’s never forget that Hitler was the first to field the jet engine fighter,” Roche noted. “And his scientists were working on fission weapons when the Allies prevailed. Imagine the world today if his regime had won the technology race.”
The Air Force may have been resting on its laurels in some ways—including weapon modernization.
“ Too many are content to rely on yesterday’s technology,” Roche said, and American pre-eminence is “threatened by nations who have the capacity to develop advanced military capability and who are willing to sell those capabilities to any nation.”
Roche cautioned, “The mantle of the world’s most advanced Air Force” is not USAF’s by birthright. “We must earn it, year by year by year.” He noted that nations such as Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates are purchasing the most advanced types of military aircraft. These are built in the United States by American contractors—but are more advanced than anything currently flown by USAF.
“ The best single-engine fighter, the best twin-engine fighter, the best tanker, and the best air-battle management system will have been delivered by American aerospace companies and put into operations, except none of those aircraft will have an American flag on its tail,” Roche said. “This disturbs me and it should disturb anyone who cares about giving the best our nation has to offer to the men and women of our armed forces.”
The solution, Roche asserted, is not to simply play catch-up. The Air Force will largely bypass what is available in the current generation of aircraft and look ahead to the systems that will soon be coming on-line.
“ Anything we buy today needs to last for the next 20 or 30 years and be ahead, and stay ahead, over that period of time,” he said.
Getting advanced systems such as the F/A-22 fighter to the field is not easy, Roche noted, adding that the Air Force must stay the course. Once the F/A-22 program is stabilized, he went on, “our joint community will grow to covet it.” The Raptor “will alter how we fight war and force opponents to alter how they think about war.”
In addition to the ability to clear the skies of enemy fighters and defeat advanced surface-to-air missiles, the F/A-22 will give the Air Force for the first time “a major capability” to attack mobile ground targets deep within enemy territory and give the US “an unmatched ability” to defeat cruise missiles, including stealthy ones.
The Raptor “will bring stealth into the daylight, enable a panoply of interservice operations, and will serve a critical joint warfighting mission,” Roche said.
Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff
The ongoing demands of Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle have created severe shortages in certain high-demand Air Force career fields. The impact of this has been moderated but not eliminated by the rotational system of the Expeditionary Air and Space Force concept, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper.
Current problems are being reduced by reaching forward into later air and space expeditionary forces (AEFs) for personnel and by holding onto some forces whose period of duty should have ended, said the Chief. However, he noted, new techniques and technological advances should allow USAF to use airmen more efficiently.
“ The way that you help with some of your people shortages is through technology, especially in things like security forces—and security forces are coming up with innovative ways … to patrol the perimeters of our bases,” Jumper said.
Because the war on terrorism suddenly required USAF to increase its force protection both domestically and abroad, the service is short roughly 8,000 security personnel. To help meet this need, the Air Force recently turned to the Army for help, and about 7,500 Army Guardsmen have been mobilized to “guard our bases during this period of our shortage,” Jumper explained.
The expeditionary system gives the Air Force a clear idea of its needs in stressed career fields.
“ We are able to pinpoint them and able to [determine] the level of our stress,” Jumper said.
According to the calendar, the Air Force should be operating in AEFs 7 and 8, he told the symposium attendees. In a steady-state condition, Jumper said, about 17,000 airmen would be deployed.
But homeland defense, the global war on terror, and the buildup in anticipation of a possible war with Iraq have forced the Air Force to retain more than 500 airmen from AEFs 5 and 6, with some of them staying as long as six months. And USAF has had to make early calls to 23,000 airmen of AEFs 9 and 10, who weren’t supposed to deploy until much later.
Jumper said that, through the AEFs, leaders have been able to identify the critical, highly stressed career fields—civil engineering, medical, security forces, communications—and then shift resources more rapidly to cover those shortages.
New training and operational concepts should also improve efficiency, the Chief said.
The service is working on a new concept of operations—or CONOPS—for global mobility. It will encompass all aspects of a rapid deployment from the United States. This includes aircraft loading and beddown of the equipment and people, where to put the bomb dump, where to place the tent city, and how to set that all up in a rapid way to get operations under way as quickly as possible, Jumper said.
The Air Force is launching the Eagle Flag program. Already set up at McGuire AFB, N.J., Eagle Flag is the support-world equivalent of the combat forces’ Red Flag, said the Chief of Staff.
Organizational changes cannot by themselves meet the Air Force’s needs. The service is still struggling with a backlog of modernization that Jumper described as “so urgent that it is difficult to set priorities.”
On the aged KC-135 tankers, the Chief explained, aircraft skin layers are peeling apart, accelerating maintenance demands.
F-15s have had catastrophic in-flight structural failures. Tails have come off in the air. Major cracks are beginning to develop in the wings. “We’ve already had to place restrictions” on F-15 maneuvering and speed, Jumper said.
Meanwhile, engine maintenance has increased dramatically because, in previous years, USAF did not properly fund its engine programs.
Jumper emphasized the importance of “energetic programs,” such as the proposed tanker lease, to deal with these problems.
Additionally, he said, USAF plans to institute an airworthiness board “to verify and to certify” the continued suitability of these aging aircraft to fly.
Jumper said that some unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Predator are, in reality, “remotely piloted aircraft.” He said aircraft nomenclature will be changed; such vehicles henceforth will be called RPAs “to fully capture the kind of things that you are doing in something like the Predator, where a pilot is required and pilot actions are necessary to take the responsibility for dropping weapons and putting aircraft on targets.” It is “the same level of responsibility” as that of a pilot who actually inhabits a cockpit.
The UAV designation will apply to aircraft that do not need as much human interaction. Global Hawk is an example of this, Jumper added.
Despite recent UAV successes, the Air Force is “not going out to buy something merely for the novelty of taking the person out of the aircraft,” Jumper said. Systems will be purchased for the benefits they provide.
“ The thing that makes a Predator so leveraging for us is the fact that it stays airborne for 24 hours,” he said. “It has persistence. It has endurance. It does things that a person could not do in that airplane.”
The Air Force should demand “an order of magnitude increase in the capability” provided by new systems and not fall into a trap of procuring new systems that are “only attractive because of the novelty of not having a person in it,” said Jumper.
Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, Air Combat Command
The use of rotating air and space expeditionary forces has enabled the Air Force to quickly transform its culture by creating an expeditionary mind-set in its airmen, according to Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, head of Air Combat Command.
Through AEFs, Air Force culture “has been fundamentally changed in only four years,” he said.
This change has allowed the Air Force to accommodate the high operations tempo it has demonstrated since 9/11. Hornburg shuddered at “the sorry state of affairs that we would be in today,” had the service not implemented the Expeditionary Air and Space Force concept.
Even the AEFs have had to transform themselves. Prior to 9/11, two AEFs were used to “fill the ‘diamonds and pearls’ jobs around the world,” including Northern and Southern Watch, Hornburg said. Those missions required a permanent party of about 6,500 airmen per year.
“ Soon after 9/11, that 6,500 ramped all the way up to 20,000,” said Hornburg. “And now … it is closer to 35,000 and it may well get bigger.”
Despite the recent strains on the AEFs, Hornburg said, he looks forward to the day when AEFs are no longer considered something novel. The day will come when “we don’t have to refer to ourselves as the expeditionary Air Force any more than the Navy calls [itself] the floating Navy. It is just going to be what we do,” he said.
Creating AEFs and an expeditionary mind-set has improved morale and retention in the Air Force, but there is still work to be done, Hornburg said. “Why did we need to recruit 34,000 airmen a year?” he asked. “Because we were losing 36,000 trained and ready airmen out the back door.”
The problem, Hornburg pointed out, is that a sergeant with 15 years of experience cannot be replaced by an airman with six weeks of experience. “It just doesn’t work,” he said.
Hornburg said USAF must develop the right concept of operations to support advanced weapon systems on which Air Force operators rely. For example, the Winchester repeating rifle was patented in 1849, but more than a decade later, the Army fought the Civil War with muzzle-loader rifles.
“ Why?” asked Hornburg. “It was the way that they fought.” The Army lacked a CONOPS to support the new technology, so the benefits of the new weapon went unrealized until 1873.
The Air Force can transform itself through technology, through new warfighting concepts, or through its institutions, he said, noting that “we are doing all three.”
The general also said that to gain the full benefits of UAVs, USAF must take better care of them. The Air Force “can’t treat these things like disposable diapers and just throw them out,” he said. “These things cost money.”
Hornburg noted that the annual Predator accident rate increased by more than 50 percent this year, and the accident rate for the Global Hawk is even higher than for Predators. The Air Force must do a better job caring for these aircraft, he said—they cannot be neglected just because they are unmanned.
UAVs can be truly transformational, if they are properly supported and backed by “a concept of operations where we can take clusters of these airplanes,” Hornburg said.
“ They can refuel,” he noted. “They can fly in formation and … do things that airplanes can’t do today. … That is Transformation with a capital ‘T.’ ”
Gen. Lance W. Lord, Air Force Space Command
Despite the cost and development challenges that military space has faced in the post–Gulf War years, on-orbit systems have greatly improved the Air Force’s warfighting capabilities, reports Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command.
In the early days of the 1991 war with Iraq, “missile warning was done by a phone call,” Lord said. “We called the theater and said, ‘Look out!’ And then we tried to … give them some idea of a launch point and a predicted impact point.”
Missile warning has improved greatly in the past decade. In 1993, AFSPC deployed a launch warning system “able to fuse some sensor information from our space-based capabilities and deliver that quickly to the theater.”
And in November 2002, AFSPC achieved initial operational capability for the 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley AFB, Colo. Lord said this is the first ground station to be integrated with the Space Based Infrared System, used for missile launch early warning.
Space Command hopes that this spring it will put into orbit another Milstar satellite to strengthen the constellation that delivers protected communications. “When we get that up, we’ll have 85 percent of the theaters … covered by medium-data-rate protected communications,” said Lord.
What the higher data-rate means, Lord explained, is that the Air Force will be able to send an air tasking order (former transmission time: about 80 minutes) in eight seconds “through protected communications.”
Lord also said space’s role in warfare may soon evolve into war in space. This is a reality brought on through the advent of Global Positioning System jammers.
“ Are we going to have war in space?” asked Lord. “It has already started. If someone tries to interfere with space-based capabilities in terms of GPS signal,” that action is an attempt to deny the United States its military advantage. “So we are already having to think about that,” he said.
However, said Lord, any adversary who believes he can jam the GPS constellation and “cause a serious impact” on Air Force munitions is dead wrong.
AFSPC is continuing to seek improved access to space, possibly through development of reusable space launch vehicles.
Lt. Gen. Paul V. Hester, Air Force Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command expects to field new gunships, tankers, and CV-22 tilt-rotors, but it also plans to derive benefits from its expertise with low-technology aircraft, said Lt. Gen. Paul V. Hester.
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., keeps a Russian–designed An-2 Colt available for training. The airplane is a radial-engine, cloth wing, “tail dragger” biplane, Hester said, similar in technology to the DeHavilland DH-4 “Flaming Coffin” that flew in World War I.
This “is the kind of technology that may very well be a part of our future because it is a part of our today,” Hester said. The An-2 can take off and land on an unimproved airstrip in less than 500 feet “with a full combat load,” Hester noted, adding that it is flown by 28 nations around the world. Familiarity with foreign aircraft the US would normally consider obsolete is important to AFSOC because the command determines how to integrate these older systems into coalition operations.
The 6th SOS trains, assesses, advises, and assists allies for missions that “local nationals can use their airplanes and their aircraft to perform,” Hester explained. This is an important step in building and integrating forces into coalitions, he said. “We are there. We train with them. We have confidence in them.”
This familiarity paid immediate dividends in the war on terrorism. Hester said a small AFSOC team “was in Uzbekistan when the attack on America of 2001 happened. Immediately, the captain and the sergeant who were there went and did business with their Uzbeki compatriots and started finding a way to beddown American forces.”
AFSOC is also looking to increase its capabilities through advanced systems. While still awaiting the outcome of the CV-22 testing program, AFSOC is receiving several new aircraft to support the larger role the command is expected to play in the future, Hester said.
Last year the Office of the Secretary of Defense gave AFSOC authority to purchase four additional AC-130 gunships, he noted. And the Fiscal 2004 budget request calls for US Transportation Command to give 10 C-130s to AFSOC. These will be converted to MC-130H Combat Talons used for aerial refueling missions. “Air refueling of C-130s, which do the route refueling for helicopters, is a shortness in our game plan,” Hester noted.
US Special Operations Command was “fortunate” to receive a sizeable budget boost over the next six years, he said, but the increase is not “a significant growth based on the additive missions that we’ve been given.”
The general also cautioned that there is “no free money.” The Air Force, Air Mobility Command, and the Guard and Reserve will all help to pay the bill as additional personnel “crosswalk” to AFSOC to fly and support the new aircraft and missions the command is supporting. “That comes at an expense across all of the services,” he said.
|Reach Forward and Other Concerns
Airmen long have accepted a certain amount of tension between control and actual execution of air operations. Control might be centralized at a high level. Basic doctrine, however, called for pushing execution down to the lowest possible level. Such decentralization gave execution authority to those in close contact with the enemy and having the best information.
Now, that “sacred principle” is under pressure, says Rebecca Grant, a top airpower expert. In Grant’s view, a flood of digital data, instant communications, and new operational realities are eroding tactical-level authority.
“ The idea of centralized control is beginning to turn into something called centralized execution,” Grant told attendees at AFA’s Orlando symposium. This, she added, leads to a troubling question: “Is decentralized execution in danger? Are we in danger of risking part of what it is that makes air and space power the powerful force that it is today?”
Grant, a contributing editor of Air Force Magazine, is the president of IRIS Independent Research in Washington, D.C., and has worked for Rand, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. She is in regular contact with members of the operational Air Force.
“ We’ve heard, over the course of the last 18 months, some frustrations with the way this [centralized execution] is being applied,” she said.
The tensions stem from the constantly increasing level of persistent and high-quality intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and communications, which offers a detailed picture of the battlespace not just to the cockpit or to forward air controllers but also to a combined air operations center or higher headquarters. “There is a greater view of the battlespace than we’ve ever had before,” said Grant.
This has created a new phenomenon that she refers to as “reach-forward.” This term refers to a situation in which a commander or his staff, possibly thousands of miles away from a theater of operations, uses high-quality battlespace pictures and advanced communications to manage tactical events in real time.
This has led in some cases to micromanagement, with negative effects on the battle rhythm of an attacking force.
According to Grant, Desert Storm offered the first instance of centralized execution, mostly concerning stealth aircraft. “If you talk to some of the F-117 pilots who flew in that conflict,” she said, “they will tell you that they got a lot of centralized direction about what to do.” However, decentralized execution was still the rule in the Gulf War.
In Operation Allied Force in 1999, one saw more evidence of reach-forward. There was highly centralized control and in some cases even what might be called centralized execution through the transmission of real-time targeting changes, said Grant. A-10 pilots, for example, complained about having to call the combined air operations center for an OK to strike a tank on the ground.
Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 was a reaffirmation of decentralized execution. Air controllers on the ground, in the mountains, and even on horseback were able to call in airpower on demand because fighters and bombers, centrally organized, had been made ready for use on demand.
However, Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in early 2002 was altogether different. Many targets were so sensitive that attacks required approval from US headquarters at MacDill AFB, Fla. Anaconda, said Grant, points up the kinds of difficulties posed by the war on terrorism for the future.
In Grant’s view, technological and operational realities now have pushed airpower into a new and much more fluid era, one in which actual control and execution will depend on what circumstances exist at the time of an operation. Airmen will have to be more flexible than ever, she believes.
“ There will be times when you must have centralized execution for efficiency,” said Grant. “There will be times when you must have decentralized execution for the span of control. And what we see in modern warfare is that we cannot necessarily take one template of rules and apply it.”
The commander’s job will be a difficult one, she went on.
“ It will never be easy to know,” said Grant, “whether you should give execution authority out to that pilot in the cockpit, or out to that air battle management platform, or when, due to the goals of your operation and the political constraints that are there, you have to hold it closely.”
She concluded, there is “no one template that would always apply to every situation. That tension of centralization and decentralization will be with us for a long time.”
—Robert S. Dudney, Editor in Chief
|The New Direction of United States Strategic Command
By the end of this year, the newly reorganized United States Strategic Command should have its concept of operations in place. This will propel the command well beyond simply the merger of the nation’s nuclear forces with US Space Command.
The new organization will have a portfolio that also includes global conventional strike, special operations, missile defense, command and control, and information warfare, according to the organization’s commander, Adm. James Ellis.
There are still many questions about which of these capabilities will reside in the Offutt AFB, Neb.–based command and which will be selected, a la carte, from other operational organizations.
Addressing AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., this February, Ellis said observers should not be fooled by the fact that STRATCOM’s name hasn’t changed.
As he tells it, the term “strategic” has merely been imbued with its classic definition. And global operations, Ellis said, no longer is synonymous with the term “nuclear.”
STRATCOM has already had several versions of a charter, the most recent of which was signed by President Bush in January. While the focus so far has been to knit together the old Space and Strategic Commands, the emphasis for the rest of this year will be on bringing in the new missions, Ellis observed.
The frequent changes indicate that there is “a commitment to tailor things as we go, to accept that we may not have a perfect vision. We can’t wait for it to become perfect.”
He also told of making the mistake, when briefing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, of calling these “new” mission areas. Ellis recalled Rumsfeld saying: “Jim, they are not new mission areas. They were previously unassigned mission areas, and they are about to be assigned to you.”
Ellis acknowledged that he faces a challenge in figuring out which commands will be support-ed and which support-ing in performing some tasks. He is still working out which commands will be components of which organizations.
For example, the Air Force prefers to send one single officer to serve as its representative to the headquarters of a combat commander. Air Force Space Command’s chief will be that component representative to STRATCOM. However, Air Combat Command provides the bombers that STRATCOM would call on for either nuclear or conventional global missions, so it would have to put those bombers at Space Command’s disposal under certain conditions.
Ellis recognized the difficulties.
“ My own personal view,” he said, “is that we need to rethink concepts of componentcy and acknowledge that we could not have enough task force to possibly satisfy the span of control and span of responsibilities that has migrated to this command.”
He even suggested that organizations might not work for a single individual.
“ We have to find mechanisms that allow me to interface with senior leadership in each of these service components and, with their concurrence and cooperation, work through them to task the capabilities … in their subordinate commands.”
He added: “It is what I call capabilities-based componentcy.”
Ellis said that he could not possibly replicate the capabilities resident in other commands at his own organization—“there aren’t enough skilled professionals to do it all”—and said he will have to tap the expertise where it already exists.
“ The service component/agency relationships will be the key to our success,” he said. “We will not have the skills and the depth required to do all this in headquarters. We are not going to get the manpower. I don’t want that manpower. What I need is assured access to those skills wherever they reside in our Department of Defense.”
In an interview following his remarks, Ellis said, “It is my intent to draw from the [service] components to help in that regard, and I think it is entirely appropriate. While we bring the joint oversight, we ought to draw from the service capabilities and not duplicate them.”
All this means “we are going to a nontraditional structure” at STRATCOM, Ellis said in his AFA remarks.
For the near term, he said, STRATCOM will be organized for “what we do that is most important,” rather than for what it does most.
There will be “flag and general officers” at STRATCOM heading up “information warfare, strike warfare—both a nuclear and conventional piece of that—[and] global operations.”
While the ideal approach to information operations would be to have it mixed in through the entire organization, Ellis said, the mission area is not yet mature enough for that, and “we are going to nurture it a bit in a separate category” until it matures.
Information operations, Ellis said, cannot be defined broadly enough.
The mission started with US Space Command’s work on computer network defense and computer network attack. However, it also includes electronic warfare, strategic deception, operational security, and psychological operations.
“ All of those pieces are a part of how we define information operations,” said Ellis, “and now that is being brought together in a single, uniform organization. That is us.”
Information operations does not yet provide a sufficiently reliable and likely successful “genuine alternative to a kinetic option” as an offensive weapon, Ellis asserted. Before IO attacks can substitute for real ordnance, the rates of success and dependability will have to go up “if we are ever going to get it beyond the realm of a science project.”
Ellis also said no network will ever be hack-proof, and a major network defense effort will be to limit the damage that anyone can do.STRATCOM will work to compartmentalize aspects of the military network so that areas can be isolated and damage controlled.
Global Strike, which Ellis described as a “previously unassigned” mission, will involve “the capability to plan for and deliver rapid, limited-duration precision kinetic and non-kinetic effects half a world away.” The emphasis on this mission area will be speed at global distances, he said, and while there will be “full cooperation with the regional combatant commander,” it is still a delicate discussion to decide who is supported and who is supporting.
As an example of where STRATCOM would supercede the regional combatant commander, Ellis said that “maybe it would be nice to bring in a capability that does not require the in-theater support, that does not pre-alert your adversary that you are coming, and still allows you to deal with the threat in a very real and capable fashion. That is what we are looking for in Global Strike.”
In the interview, Ellis said that a global, rapid-strike conventional weapon could come in many forms, all of which are now being studied.
“ We’re brainstorming,” he said. Concepts include the Common Aero Vehicle, a hypersonic or suborbital platform with one or many submunitions, as well as other “hybrid vehicles that operate in both [air and space].”
STRATCOM will focus on “accelerating, assessing, and rapidly culling ideas, trying [them] in laboratories or in concept.” The idea will be to find what works rather than starting from “a preordained answer.”
Another concept being considered is ICBMs with conventional warheads, he acknowledged.
“ They are a very rapid response, long-range capability,” said Ellis. “[But] they don’t have as much precision associated with them as our current tactically delivered precision guided munitions do. The combination of those capabilities might offer some promise, but, again, it needs to be examined in the entire [STRATCOM] context. … It’s a concept that’s certainly worth exploring.”
The command’s “global sensors” will bring an added dimension to its ability to strike targets worldwide, he added. And, in a particularly time-sensitive situation, STRATCOM has well-established lines of communication and decision with the national command authority, Ellis observed.
Ellis also took pains to say that the nuclear element of STRATCOM is not taking a backseat, either in importance or attention, to the new missions. Given the unfolding events in Korea and elsewhere, he said, the nuclear element is “an important piece of reality.”
The nuclear arsenal is aging, Ellis noted, and with the exception of the Trident D-5 missile, every component of the nuclear Triad “is out of production.” Coping with aging and upgrades will warrant a great deal of his attention, he said.
“ It is absolutely essential that this remain as it always has been: a zero-defect program,” he added.
The Minuteman ICBM upgrade program as now laid out is “satisfactory” to guaranteeing the reliability of the missile leg and is funded, Ellis reported in the interview. The responsiveness of ICBMs, the survivability of sea-launched missiles, and the flexibility of the bomber force remain unchanged, and the nuclear Triad concept is still valid “for the foreseeable future,” he said. Nevertheless, the shape of the future nuclear force “is part of the discussion that needs to be held,” he noted.
While he is not planning to pull the Space Command framework wholesale out of the Colorado Springs, Colo., area—some things “are legitimately and appropriately either literally or figuratively hardwired into Cheyenne Mountain”—Ellis said some aspects “need to be resident with us” at Offutt and will be moving to Omaha. Elements crucial to supporting NORAD will remain where they are, but 400 billets will be moving to Nebraska.
Missile defense will include “what I call the preboost phase, … which is actually hitting the thing before it leaves the pad,” Ellis noted.
Consolidating so many missions into a single command will allow trade-offs that have not necessarily been made in the past, he said.
“ We also think there is an opportunity here to talk trade-offs, … for the first time to be able to assess the costs of on-orbit resources vs. upgraded air breathers vs. terrestrial capabilities and maritime systems … as we work toward those concepts of persistence and steering capability.”
Ellis will be careful not to develop a wish list, since, he said in the interview, “the services have to deliver and buy these systems. They have to fund them … out of their budgets.” He added, “From a joint perspective, I need to understand those constraints and realities.”
As STRATCOM commander, “I need to say what we really think, [but] it’s also appropriate that I understand the competing demands and stresses the services are under,” said Ellis. “We all want the same outcome, which is to genuinely enhance … the systems that are deemed most important … to the national security.”
This, he said, “is our goal as we realign the organizational piece and draw on the components’ support.”
—John A. Tirpak, Executive Editor, and Adam J. Hebert, Senior Editor
|F/A-22 Fixes Paying Off, Sambur Reports
The pace of flight testing on the F/A-22 Raptor is quickening, and there has been marked improvement in the aircraft’s software stability since the program was restructured last year, USAF officials reported at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Leadership changes and a conservative funding plan should also ensure the program’s success, they asserted.
“ Recent test activities show changes to the program … are paying off,” said Marvin R. Sambur, Air Force acquisition executive. He reported a fivefold improvement in the stability of F/A-22 software—now 8.8 hours between problems—and noted that this is a “very, very significant accomplishment” toward achieving an operational standard of 10 hours.
Meanwhile, flight-test points have been completed at 2.5 times the previous rate, and critical test launches at supersonic speeds of both the AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles have been successful. The first Raptor was delivered to Nellis AFB, Nev., in January, and Air Combat Command maintenance crew training on the jet has begun, Sambur noted.
“ These highlights demonstrate the Air Force–Lockheed Martin team is getting the program back on track,” Sambur said, but he cautioned that the achievements simply represent “a good beginning.” He said it’s likely the program will encounter “unknown unknowns” that will demand aggressive management to meet an initial operational capability in late 2005.
Sambur noted that the new program and test management in place at the program level, in flight test, and at Lockheed Martin amounts to an A-Team of top performers.
The status report and the introduction of the management team to the press was part of the service’s effort to demonstrate “what we are doing to turn this program around,” Sambur explained.
He had harsh words for Lockheed Martin, noting that the company’s F/A-22 and the Space Based Infrared System have both suffered from problems and that sub-par performance on such key systems was unacceptable.
“ We’ve been very hard on the Lockheed management,” Sambur said. “We told them how important this program is and that they needed to clean up their act because we in the Air Force were not going to tolerate that performance.”
He echoed remarks from Air Force Secretary James G. Roche that if the program doesn’t perform, “in spite of its importance to the Air Force, we will cancel” the F/A-22. Lockheed Martin’s “performance has to change, and it has to change very dramatically,” Sambur warned.
Ralph Heath, Lockheed Martin executive vice president, said he has taken personal charge of the program and insisted that it is “without question, the … No. 1 priority” for the company. Heath said he has at his disposal the resources of the corporation and its teammates, including Boeing, to get the program performing on time and as advertised.
Heath also said the transition from development to production is “the defining moment … of the life of a program.” Production requires “different resources, a different mind-set [and] perspective” than development, he explained, adding that Lockheed and the Air Force “effectively have made that transition.”
Sambur reported that the Air Force has taken “a different approach” to this program. While budgeting rules usually call for a spending plan of 50–50, which means “you have a 50 percent probability of making it and a 50 percent probability of not making it,” the F/A-22 will see an 80–20 budget, he said. “We wanted to make sure this program would succeed.”
Under the revised program, the Air Force will not raid any other accounts to pay for the F/A-22. The service is taking a build-to-budget approach, which means that if there are cost overruns in development, they will be covered by production dollars. The service is operating under a $43 billion production cap. For that money, USAF now expects to be able to build 276 of the 381 Raptors it says it needs.
The Air Force will not request additional money for the F/A-22, senior leaders told Air Force Magazine. (See “The F/A-22 Gets Back on Track,” March, p. 22.)
Lt. Gen. (sel.) John D.W. Corley, USAF director of Global Power Programs, said 381 is “the floor, the minimum number of airplanes you should be procuring of the F/A-22,” based on a Defense Planning Guidance study last summer. (See “The F-22 On the Line,” September 2002, p. 36.)
The 381 is the operational requirement, while the 276, at this point, is the “fiscally constrained estimate” of what the Air Force will be able to afford, said Corley.
Sambur noted that under the “very conservative” approach to funding being taken by the Air Force, 276 is the number that now appears can be built. However, “produceability” cost savings could still kick in at a much better than expected rate, meaning “we are actually hoping we’ll be able to do a lot better than ,” he said.
Corley said the Air Force has considered various alternatives to the F/A-22, from extending the service life of the F-15 to the benefits that will accrue from fielding new, stealthy, more precise munitions, but nothing else will do.
While there will be “enhancements” to radar and the lethality of munitions the F-15 can carry, “it will never yield the capability that this aircraft [the F/A-22] can,” Corley asserted. Likewise, he said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter lacks the unique characteristics—supercruise and all-aspect stealth—necessary to defeat “the next two generations of double-digit surface-to-air missiles.” Moreover, the F-35 will not be available in large quantities until perhaps 2014 or beyond, he added.
Cutting back on the F/A-22 “is going to create … a capability void that can’t be fulfilled with legacy types of airplanes, through upgrading F-15s or other legacy aircraft, or even the procurement of more Joint Strike Fighters later on,” Corley maintained.
Canceling the F/A-22 now would add costs to the F-35, which will use systems developed for the F/A-22, such as engines and avionics. “If you truncate F/A-22 today, you will push a bill to the F-35 in the future,” said Corley. “That is not what we want to do.”
The maximum number of airplanes the F/A-22 program will produce is 36 a year, which will be achieved around 2005, according to the new F/A-22 program director, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Owen.
At that rate, USAF will finish the program in 2011, but Corley said the 276 figure is “only an estimate” and more might be built. The key, he said, is “to stabilize this program.” He added, “We understand we have a problem with competence and with credibility, … and we are turning the corner on that right now.”
Neither Corley nor Sambur could say what the Air Force will do to make up the difference in capability between the 381 required and 276, should that be all that actually gets built. Corley asked, “Is there a disconnect between what our requirement is and the fiscal constraints?” and replied, “Yes, there is.”
However, since there are eight years till the notional program completion, he said, “We’ll have an opportunity to re-examine, if you will, what the next strategy is or how the world changes between now and then.”
—John A. Tirpak, Executive Editor