Teets: Get On With the C-130J
The C-130J should get a reprieve from termination, says Peter B. Teets, acting Secretary of the Air Force. He warns that the C-130J program, recommended for cancellation in 2006 by the Defense Department, is too important to be left out of the budget.
In an interview with Air Force Magazine at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in mid-February, Teets talked about the service’s top weapons programs, including the C-130J.
“I think it’s going to be revisited,” Teets said of the C-130J decision, handed down in late December with other cuts in a budget trimming exercise.
The C-130J is “quite an efficient procurement,” but canceling it would invoke termination costs, he explained.
Members of Congress have complained that terminating the C-130J would cost more than simply buying the full complement of aircraft under contract. (See “Washington Watch: Political Leaders Open Second Front,” March, p. 9.)
“We do so much intratheater lift with C-130s today, and they’re getting old,” Teets noted. Some are restricted from flying under certain conditions while others are grounded for cracks in their wing boxes, he said.
“In a sense,” said Teets, “it’s almost a more severe case than the tankers, in terms of the need to get on with recapitalization.”
The tankers to which he refers are the Eisenhower-era KC-135s, replacement of which is a USAF top priority.
No Time for “Clean Sheet” on Tankers
The Air Force needs to get a new tanker program going, and there’s no time to lose, Teets asserted. Some have suggested that the Air Force skip the procurement of a commercial derivative and go forward with a new generation tanker-cargo design. Teets doesn’t agree.
“I don’t think there’s time to start with a clean sheet of paper and try to develop a totally new concept,” he insisted, explaining that the advanced age of the KC-135E fleet won’t permit such an approach.
He predicted that a Pentagon analysis of tanker alternatives, which was due to be completed at any moment, would recognize that “there are two viable competitors [for tanker production] and we should proceed with a competition and get on with the replacement tanker program.”
The two likely choices will be Boeing’s KC-767 and an Airbus derivative of the A330 airliner. While both aircraft would have US content, Teets said, “there are challenges with running a good, fair competition,” since one of the competitors is a foreign design.
It’s a “complicated picture,” Teets observed, but he said he’ll be watching to see the reaction of Congress to the Marine Corps’ recent choice of a foreign design to be the next Presidential helicopter. The choice of the US101 helicopter, a program headed by Lockheed Martin but featuring a large percentage of European content, is expected to rouse Congressional “buy American” challenges.
“It’ll be real interesting to see what happens there,” Teets said.
Review of the F/A-22 No Surprise
For Teets, the need to rejustify the USAF requirement for 381 F/A-22s in the Fiscal 2006 budget and subsequent budgets is a given simply because it is a “big-ticket” program. The 2006-11 Future Years Defense Program calls for terminating in 2008 the F/A-22 at 180 aircraft.
“In a constrained budget environment, you’re going to find that programs that are requiring significant resources are going to get examined on a regular basis,” he said.
The Air Force’s requirement for 381 of the stealthy fighters is “not an easy slam-dunk argument,” Teets acknowledged. The rationale is “not exact science,” and “to some extent, it does depend on the threat scenario,” he said.
However, he emphasized, “you also want to be prepared to deal with unexpected, unanticipated threats.”
The Air Force has done “an analysis that I think is very proper, correct, [and] sophisticated … that does say there’s a requirement for 381,” said Teets. “When all is said and done, I think the logic behind our rationale … will prevail. … But clearly, it’s going to be examined again this year, and it could be examined again next year, because it will be a big-ticket item next year, too.”
He said flatly that, contrary to some reports, “the Air Force did not offer up the F/A-22” as a cost-cutting measure in the defense budget. However, he also noted that the cuts do not affect the program for two more fiscal years, so “there’s plenty of time to do a proper study of the whole air dominance issue and what … the mix of tactical air [is] going to be.”
The Quadrennial Defense Review, now under way, is slated to consider the contribution of all fighter, bomber, munitions, and unmanned vehicle programs to the mission area of air dominance.
However, the F/A-22 is the only platform that offers both stealth and supercruise in a single package, Teets said. Supercruise “is a huge deal” and will figure prominently in the desire to have combat aircraft within minutes of supporting troops on the ground.
A cruise missile launched from a ship at sea means potentially “hours” of flight time to a target, which will give moving targets a chance to escape, Teets said. “Even [some] high-value targets can defend themselves with that kind of time to target,” he asserted.
Teets said it’s also important to highlight the sunk investment in the F/A-22, because it makes clear that the vast bulk of development and tooling costs is already spent and all that remains is production.
The Pentagon’s cut of $10.5 billion in the F/A-22 program resulted in the reduction of 100 airplanes, said Teets. He added that “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist” to see that the incremental costs of each new Raptor is about $105 million—not the $257-million-a-copy figure quoted by Rumsfeld.
Moreover, because 381 F/A-22s have the potential to replace 800 other aircraft—mostly F-15s and F-117s—the result will be “more capability with lots of recurring savings” in maintenance and personnel costs.
“Boy, that just has ‘winner’ written all over it,” Teets said of the plan, which he said also demonstrates that the Air Force is “not trying to say you’ve got to have more iron on the ramp.”
Expanding the UAV Horizon
The Pentagon in December designated the Air Force as lead service on the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System. According to Teets, USAF is working with the Navy to define differences and commonalties, as well as technologies, that would “pay dividends for both variants.”
The Air Force wants to develop a long-range strike version of the J-UCAS to loiter for extended periods over a battlefield. It would need to be air refuelable, unlike today’s unmanned aerial vehicles. With a long loiter time and stealth, the J-UCAS would also make an excellent intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platform, Teets noted.
He does not believe it would make a good system to suppress or defeat enemy air defenses. That role, said Teets, will be “superbly done by the F/A-22.”
Teets does expect the J-UCAS to compete with the proposed FB-22 for the long-range strike mission. The FB-22 “ought to get played off against J-UCAS,” he said. However, USAF first must decide whether a UAV can perform a bomber mission, carrying a large weapons load deep into enemy territory. Teets indicated a preference for the unmanned vehicle, saying, “I wouldn’t jump at an FB-22, personally.”
Jumper Favors Smaller, Better Air Force
For its portion of the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Air Force is promoting the idea of a reduced force that offers even greater capabilities than USAF does currently, Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper reported.
The service’s pitch to the QDR will be that “we can have a smaller, much more capable force if we can make the investments that we think are required,” Jumper said in an interview with Air Force Magazine at the AFA symposium in Orlando.
Jumper expects USAF to develop new capabilities in space, unmanned vehicles, command and control, and information operations because, as he said, “That’s where the demand is.” On the whole, the service will be better able to support “maneuvering units on the ground.”
The Air Force’s top uniformed leader sees the QDR as being a “fine-tuning” of the strategy articulated over the last four years, with no “large deviation” in terms of the threats to be confronted or the emphasis on capabilities rather than platforms or intentions.
However, he does expect a “much closer look” at force structure and size. Notable in that debate will be air dominance.
The linchpin of the Air Force’s QDR effort, he said, is the F/A-22, specifically, acquiring it in the required numbers.
“That’s the whole strategy, actually,” Jumper said.
According to the Chief, as more capable aircraft, such as the F/A-22, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and E-10 battle management platform, enter the inventory, USAF “can do with a lot fewer” aircraft than it has now. “It gives you an opportunity to reduce your force structure and change your investment,” he added.
It costs the Air Force $1.2 billion a year for every 10,000 personnel it has in uniform, Jumper noted. Trading 800 legacy fighters for 381 F/A-22s that are easier to maintain and deploy is an opportunity “to make a smaller force structure that is still extremely capable.”
He confessed to remaining puzzled that F/A-22 critics deride the fighter because they say it is too powerful an airplane.
Jumper said: “I can understand if people think that we have too many, and we can certainly argue that. It should be a matter of analysis—it’s going to be a matter of how many places in the world we’re going to have to be at one time—but to say, [after] we’ve invested all this money, and now it’s too good, makes no sense to me.”
Having recently qualified in the F/A-22, Jumper said he is now acutely aware of its potential, and it is “obviously of more value than any of us ever thought.”
Because enemy defenses can’t see the Raptor, he explained, “the denominator now becomes zero. It’s no longer an exchange ratio” with enemy fighters. By the time the F/A-22 gets close enough to be seen by the enemy, “your time gradients are so quick that they can’t do anything about it.”
Improving Joint “Effects”
Jumper said a major focus of the QDR should be different ways to employ forces jointly to “create better effects.” He believes that “there’s a lot more we could do.”
The Army is coming to depend more and more on the other services for things like air defense, as well as for “joint fires to be able to come to the right place at the right time,” said Jumper. The most recent concept of operations for maneuver units, he said, scatters them around the battlespace, often “quite deep in the battlespace.” Jumper said that would call for the Air Force because there wouldn’t be time to bring in artillery.
He said that deep in contested airspace, “you can’t just send a bunch of helicopters or A-10s” to perform classic close air support, because they could not survive against advanced ground and air threats in an enemy’s heartland.
“You’ve got to be able to come at it in other ways,” he asserted, “and this is where the value of stealth and … speed … presents itself in the new, modern context.”
According to Jumper, the Air Force did not expect to be performing such missions with the F/A-22, but as the Army changes its way of doing business, the aircraft “happens to fit perfectly.” He maintained, “If we didn’t have it, we’d have to invent it.”
Jumper added, “If we agree that the concept of operations is to put maneuver units deep in enemy space, then we have to agree that we have to respond to them quickly.” He said it will be essential to be able to respond to requests for air support “in seconds, and not minutes or hours, to help people who are in extremis.”
Jumper also agrees with Teets that the J-UCAS can feature prominently in this new CONOPS. It can loiter over enemy territory, where ground units can get air support almost instantaneously.
“Not to trivialize it, but it’s sort of the Coke-dispenser model of being able to order up fires,” Jumper said. He said the J-UCAS could carry an impressive load of varied weapons.
It will have to be “fairly big” and air refuelable to travel very long ranges, carrying that sizeable payload, he said. It would also be cost prohibitive to load it with enough sensors and processors in addition to its weapons load to enable it to avoid enemy aircraft, so, he said, it may take the F/A-22 to defend such a craft in the daylight hours.
Jumper expects the J-UCAS to be able to stay up “dispensing weapons” and refueling from an aerial tanker “as long as it’s got weapons.”
The options for the J-UCAS are still open. Questions remain about the need for stealth and speed. Those features exist now in the F/A-22, which has led the Air Force to consider a larger version—the FB-22—as an interim bomber. Jumper has asked, “Could we make an FB-22 that doesn’t have a man in it?” It is large enough and fast enough to satisfy the needs of on-demand airpower.
“The bomber advocates will tell you that it’s not big enough,” Jumper said. “But if supercruise is the big payoff, then shouldn’t we take advantage of the fact that we’ve already got something like that?” Yet, for the J-UCAS, if stealth is “the big payoff,” then “shape becomes more important, bomb load becomes more important, and you don’t need supercruise quite so much.”
The design trade-offs are important, said Jumper. That is “why it’s taking so long to do this long-range strike” analysis.
It’s critical not to try to do too much with one platform, while at the same time, the Pentagon must avoid focusing on a “niche that may not be useful,” he emphasized.
Jumper Advocates Redundancy
The US military should not become overly dependent on information warfare and network operations, said the Air Force Chief of Staff, because “the more you’re using long-haul communications for very critical activities, the more vulnerable you are.”
“It’s why I feel so strongly about the E-10,” Jumper said. The E-10 would be a forward-area airborne command post able to maintain short-distance, line-of-sight communications with combat aircraft and surface forces.
However, he said that the Air Force has to fight those who say there is no need for an aircraft loaded with mission specialists and instead are pushing for a sensor that can send a signal back to the States for processing.
Jumper believes that such an extended reachback option is fraught with risk.
“You have to have the assurance of eyeball-to-eyeball or direct radio links … to make sure that your message gets through,” he said.
Redundancy of command and control is what is needed, said Jumper, who thinks it can be obtained “for a relatively low cost.”
In addition to the E-10, part of this redundant capability, he said, could be a near-space craft, which could provide line-of-sight relays. He proposes exploring the use of lighter-than-air craft at “near-space” altitudes as a possible way to improve the coverage provided by satellites.
“We have to prove that it really will do what its potential says,” said Jumper. He maintained, “I think we can do that proof with a relatively modest investment.”
Jumper sees the near-space craft being put under the direction of the space community, which would use the airships to dwell over areas of interest for long periods of time. They would cue more capable satellites as they pass over the region to get maximum benefit from each satellite pass.
The key, he said, would be to make the payload of such craft light enough to be practical. He does not recommend duplicating, for instance, the 3,000-pound payload of a Global Hawk UAV. If it can be done, cheaply enough, it would help get far more effectiveness out of satellites, which are “very, very expensive,” said Jumper.