The Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile will soon require recapitalization, Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris, Air Combat Command’s vice commander, informed lawmakers Saturday. In a prepared statement to the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, Harris said the service’s medium-range AIM-120 is increasingly vulnerable to counter-measures and limits the effectiveness of the service’s fifth-generation aircraft. He noted the AIM-120 also has insufficient range when compared to newer, long-range adversary missiles. But missile capacity, not just capability, is also a concern. “Our aircraft lose effectiveness when they run out of missiles,” Harris said in his written statement. “As we look to the future, increased aircraft payloads and deeper magazines will be a driving requirement for our next generation aircraft.” In the recently released “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,” Air Force planners included stand-off arsenal planes in a mix of systems that they believe will be required to maintain air superiority in the future. (For more on Air Superiority 2030 read the Aperture column in the May issue of Air Force Magazine.)
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.